Switching Zelda Up

I love Zelda. But you probably know that already, and, if you have followed me for a while, then you also know that I’m exhausted and exasperated by the Zelda series and Nintendo’s lamentable tendency to just keep re-releasing Ocarina of Time with modified dungeons and a different title. I very badly want to play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but I simply can’t right now, because I don’t currently own a Wii U, and there is no chance whatsoever that I’m about to go out and buy a Nintendo Switch.

Do You Got the Power?

Nintendo Power used to be an institution of gaming. I don’t know anyone who didn’t have a friend or family member, or themselves, subscribed to the magazine, and for good reason: Nintendo was the gaming company. It’s not hard to navigate to a certain bay of pirates and find the first fifty issues of Nintendo Power and browse them, and I’d highly recommend everyone do it. Something will immediately strike you, though, as you piece together why Nintendo shut down the magazine.

Each issue was filled to the brim with previews and reviews, of course. At one point, Nintendo was running a TopĀ  30 NES games section, and even though most of the top ten were games made by Nintendo, they had more than enough games to on the system to fill a Top 500. In fact, at the end of its life, more than seven hundred titles had been released on the Nintendo Entertainment System, from developers like Capcom, Bethesda, Konami, and others.

The Super Nintendo reached similar acclaim and had more than 700 titles at the end of its life, but then things went awry. Fewer than three hundred titles were released for the Nintendo 64, and a shockingly large chunk of them were first or second party titles. The Gamecube, with more than six hundred titles, at first seems successful–compared to its predecessors, it certainly was. However, this is when gaming really broke into the mainstream, and a whopping 1,850 games landed on its competition, the Sony PlayStation 2. Compared to its competitors, the GameCube was found wanting.

Things only got worse from there, with the Nintendo Wii having a mere 317 exclusive titles. If there’s any reason to continue, the Wii U saw fewer than 300. And, just as was the case with the Wii, the bulk of the Wii U’s library was total bullshit. The GameCube, Wii, and Wii U left no doubt whatsoever that, while Nintendo themselves still made excellent first party games, there simply was not enough third party support to justify purchasing the console. No gamer owned just a Wii, or just a Wii U. Everyone who owned one also owned one of the other two consoles, or a PC.

None of the hit, new games being previewed in Nintendo Power really captured the public’s attention. Players who wanted to read about the latest in RPGs, strategy games, and other genres had to go to a different publication; only players who wanted to read about the new Zelda and Mario continued with Nintendo Power and, let’s face it, there just aren’t enough new Zelda and Mario games to justify a console.

So unsurprisingly the magazine was dropped. The early days of Nintendo Power saw most of its issues filled with talk about third party games. Castlevania 2, Dragon Warrior 2, and so many others. Only rarely was an issue fixed primarily on a first party title, and never was an issue fixed only on a first party title.

The Wii

I made the mistake of buying a Wii. After reaching the second world in New Super Mario Bros., my wife and I were so bored with it that we didn’t anticipate that either of us would ever play it again. In fact, we didn’t. After one night of mandatory bowling and boxing, we took the stupid thing back. Even hacking it didn’t seem very appealing, since we each had a PC capable of running anything we wanted to play.

It wasn’t until the price of the Wii dropped to $40 that I purchased another one, and that was primarily for the purpose of hacking it and playing some of the GameCube games that I still had. It didn’t make sense to try to find a replacement GameCube since the Wii ran them, and I’m pretty sure the Wii was cheaper. Despite my frequent requests, my sister regularly left it on, and it predictably fried the disc drive, exactly as the Wii was prone to doing when left on.

She eventually bought a Wii U, and I borrowed it for a while when she was bored with it, but I never purchased one myself. Mario Kart 8 was a suitable distraction here and there, but it certainly wasn’t enough to command my attention long–just another Mario Kart game, really, with no evolution and only negligible changes to the gameplay. Just as Zelda has been, the Mario Kart series has been stalled since the N64. The only changes have been gimmicks: Oh, now you can have two drivers! Now you can drive upside down!

Nintendo sure loves their gimmicks.

Super Smash Bros. 4 was an enticing and enjoyable game, but extremely lacking in content. I readily admit that I played probably thousands of hours in Smash back on the GameCube, with my wife and friends in Melee, and Nintendo seemed to be under the impression that they could just do that. In fact, it seems they forgot to put an actual game in there. I’d love to play Sm4sh, but… there’s nothing to do.

The HD remaster of Wind Waker and Twilight Princess were neat, but I don’t see much of an improvement over the original WW, and I can’t fucking stand Twilight Princess. It is easily the worst Zelda game ever made. I have no idea how anyone can tolerate that trite, inane, and repetitious crap that was little more than a remake of Ocarina of Time in the first place.

Ocarina of Time… Ah, there’s a classic. Except… it isn’t. Because Nintendo won’t let it become a classic, because they won’t let it age. I’m not referring to Ocarina of Time 3D or the Zelda Collector’s Edition or even the GameCube OOT/Master Quest disc. I’m referring to Twilight Princess, which was pretty much exactly the same as Ocarina. I don’t see any noteworthy difference between the two.

The only truly great game that hit the Wii U was Super Mario 3D World, which is an absolute masterpiece of platform gaming. Goddamn, that game is good. I came very close to 100%ing it–and would have, if my sister hadn’t reclaimed the Wii U so that she could sell it for more Lego Dimensions character sets. The only thing I had left to do was beat the first seven worlds with Toad and Luigi, two characters that I never used. I loved that game.

This game is a masterpiece.

The New Zelda

Nintendo would have been crucified if they hadn’t released Breath of the Wild on the Wii U, so I understand their decision to do it. However, that decision is also the reason that I’m not going to buy a Switch. A Nintendo console gets one, maybe two, Zelda games–HD remasters don’t count. I have to commend Nintendo on putting a great deal of time and care into a product, and I’m not saying they need to release more Zelda and Mario games, but I am saying that… it’s not very likely that the Switch is going to get another Zelda game.

The NES received two. The SNS received one. The N64 received two. The GameCube received two. The Wii received one. Oh, yeah. Skyward Sword. I’d forgotten about its miserable existence. It’s also a remake of Ocarina of Time. The Wii U received three, technically, but really just one. Hell, the Wii U came really close to not even getting a new Zelda game, to be honest.

This decision of Nintendo’s–a pro-consumer decision all the way–to release a new Zelda game on two consoles is not good for them. I never owned Twilight Princess on the Wii. I had it on GameCube. Why on Earth would I buy the tedious, motion-control nightmare that was the Wii version? Why would I have bought a Wii to play it, when I could play it on the GameCube?

Today I’m faced with essentially the same decision that I was faced with back then, when I giddily purchased Twilight Princess at Wal-Mart for the GameCube. Goddamn, I was so excited! I couldn’t wait. And then… Ugh. By the time I completed the second dungeon, I was so bored with it that I purchased a strategy guide and just followed its instructions through the rest of the game. In effect, I remember very little about Twilight Princess. I played it on Auto Pilot, following a guide, because it was so extraordinarily boring. I’ve tried several times to replay it, but always get bored before reaching the lake temple. I honestly don’t understand how anyone who has played more than 2 or 3 Zelda games finds any enjoyment whatsoever in Twilight Princess.

Excitement

While I’m probably going to find a Wii U from a pawn shop–I’m on excellent terms with one of them [they’re a client] and can probably get it for less than a hundred books, and I’ve no qualms about trading in a few laptops or something that I have lying around–and am going to get the new Zelda, I’m not particularly excited for it.

I’ve avoided most of the hype and trailers, just as I always do for a game that I’m interested in, but what I’ve seen so far doesn’t leave me particularly excited. Zelder Scrolls sounds more and more appropriate, but learning that it borrowed Assassin’s Creed “climb the tower, reveal the map” shit really lessened my interest, because I know exactly what to expect. A bunch of meaningless collectibles, a set of items that we’ve all seen before, and a meaningless return to the series’ origins.

I’m judging the game before I’ve played it, and off of very little information about it, but that’s the problem. Even if I didn’t have the personal mandate to avoid all spoilers and information, I’m not interested in information about it. I already know what to expect. It’s another Zelda game. It will have Zelda items and Zelda dungeons set in an Assassin’s Creed overworld and with Elder Scrolls type side quests.

I’ve put off the decision to buy a new graphics card in favor of buying a Wii U, but it’s not really the new Zelda that I’m most excited about–it’s Super Mario 3D World that I’m looking forward to. In fact, it may be a few weeks before I even buy the new Zelda game. It just doesn’t seem appealing, and very few people have more experience and history with the Zelda series than I do.

People are raving about it, and lunatics are criticizing reviewers for only giving it a 9/10. Predictably, some people are saying that Ocarina of Time has finally been dethroned. By a paint-by-numbers Zelda game with an Assassin’s Creed overworld. I’m going to play the game, and these criticisms of it aren’t even fair since I haven’t, but, again, that’s the point. These people praised Dragon Age: Inquisition, and it’s one of the worst games I’ve ever played. Final Fantasy XIII received extremely high scores, and it’s also one of the worst games I’ve ever played. Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning got a 7 in Game Informer. These same people are giving the new Zelda a 9 and 10. It doesn’t mean anything to me, because they watched the latest superhero movie and came all over themselves, even though it was exactly like every other superhero movie. So I don’t exactly trust their ability to recognize crap when they’re consuming it.

I should be excited. It’s a new Zelda game! Unlike JP in Grandma’s Boy, I didn’t beat The Legend of Zelda before I could walk, but I had beaten it before I entered kindergarten. This is a series I’ve been playing my entire life. It may even be my favorite series. Other than some of the handheld titles, I’ve never missed one of them, and never failed to get one near its release day. Even Twilight Princess had me excited.

But this?

It’s just “Oh, look. They made another one.”

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